Murder Trial: Jury finds Jason Schuller sane at time of William Tackett homicide
Heather Tackett quickly lowered her head when she heard the jury decide that Jason Schuller, the man who killed her father, was legally sane when he fired the fatal shots.
Jurors took under an hour Monday to issue their verdict against the 37-year-old Schuller — a decision that will send him to a state prison instead of a mental institution from which he could have been released if later found sane.
Tackett grabbed a tissue after hearing the verdict, leaving the courtroom after learning Schuller’s sentencing is scheduled for May 4.
“They found justice, true justice,” said Tackett, William Tackett’s daughter. “I think that everyone who knew him knew that he was legally sane. It’s a victory for my dad.”
A jury in December convicted Schuller of first-degree murder, but could reach no decision about his sanity at the time of the March 20, 2016, fatal shooting. That led to a retrial only on the sanity issue for Schuller, who pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. He remained convicted of murder.
The retrial began March 6. Testimony ended Thursday, with jurors returning at 9 a.m. Monday to begin deliberations. They had a verdict around 9:40 a.m.
“We really felt all along that this wasn’t a case where someone had a mental health condition,” Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh said. “We’re really happy and we’re relieved for the victim’s family members, that they can get some closure now.”
Deputy Public Defender Micah Pierce said in an email that he’s made no decision about what motions he might file in the wake of his client’s verdict. He declined further comment.
The jury that in December convicted Schuller of murder heard he shot the 67-year-old Tackett several times before setting his body on fire and fleeing. A police chase ended in Sacramento with Schuller’s arrest.
In his first trial Schuller said he had auditory and visual hallucinations. He saw demons and believed infernal and governmental forces interfered in his life. He told jurors he could show people a “light,” which would affect them in different ways.
At William Tackett’s Grass Valley home, Schuller said his friend took the “light” from him. William Tackett then admitted he was Lucifer, and Schuller shot him after the older man reached for a gun.
Pierce in his closing arguments on Thursday said jurors should focus on his client’s actions in the weeks before the shooting. Schuller was unstable, leaving Omaha, Nebraska, without telling his sister and acting strangely when stopped by Winnemucca, Nevada, police.
“You heard evidence of his paranoid thought process,” Pierce said.
Walsh dismissed arguments about mental illness, calling Schuller a bad person. He pointed to evidence of Schuller’s drug use to explain his strange behavior in the days before William Tackett’s death.
Walsh also focused on what he called Schuller’s eight different stories he told about the night he shot Tackett. Fleeing the scene and contemplating suicide show that Schuller knew his actions were wrong, the prosecutor said.
“They don’t flee from the scene,” Walsh said of someone who is truly not guilty by reason of insanity. “They don’t believe they did anything wrong.”
To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4239.
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